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8 Min Read

Who You Epp?

Published on

January 8, 2024

Weare all familiar with the story of Joseph, as written in Genesis 37–50. Joseph, the most beloved of Jacob’s sons, is hated by his “envious brothers,” who are angry and jealous of Jacob’s gift to Joseph—the infamous “coat of many colours.” The brothers seize Joseph and sell him to a party of Ishmaelites/Midianites, who carry him to Egypt.

However, one thing I am learning is that the same story—just like events in our lives—can have multiple perspectives and, as such, have multiple meanings and learnings to glean from. We can read Joseph’s story from the perspective of “all things working together for good” — and yes, Joseph loved God—as seen from the drama with Potiphar’s wife. The story of Joseph can also be viewed from a perspective of growth—from Joseph being a somewhat narcissistic little guy who learned obedience through the “things he suffered” — and this, more often than not, is the perspective that provides more teachable moments; one of which we would be looking at today.

One thing is pretty clear; Joseph had a a gift. He was a “dream whisperer” — having the ability to both dream the future and interpret the dreams of others. It is interesting that Joseph only dreamt—or shared his dreams—in his early years (more on this later). How he used his gift, or rather, the evolution of his use of this gift, paints an interesting story.

In the beginning of his story in Genesis 37, his use of his gift is self-focused; he dreams, he communicates his dream, and one thing is certain; he is the center of his gift—it’s all about him, and this can be infuriating for others. Have you ever been on a date or had an extended conversation with someone who can’t take two minutes to shut up about themselves and ask about you? Yes, yes, his brothers took things too far, and not to excuse their behaviour in any way, but to a certain extent, you can almost understand the provocation.

We move on after Joseph has gone through a series of “sufferings” and meet him in Genesis 40 at the prison. This time, he’s not self-absorbed, and he’s learned to look out for others—so much so that he can notice the emotions in others and react to them appropriately. It is clear that he’s grown in Emotional Intelligence — a skill that would have been useful in his dealings with his brothers. His use of his gift has also evolved — he no longer talks about his dreams. Instead, he helps others interpret their dreams, but (yes, there’s a but), he helps them arguably with his own gain in mind.

I would digress at this point. Sometimes, I wonder about the dreams of the butler and the baker and how they were opposites of themselves, almost akin to the dreams of the Pharoah. The baker had a “bad dream,” the butler had a “good dream,” and Pharoah had both good and bad—a 2-in-1 package. I wonder if there was something Joseph could have prescribed to save the baker’s life in a similar fashion in which he used the interpretation of the good years to save Egypt from the bad years. Here’s the irony of the matter; the baker would never have forgotten Joseph if he saved his life—unlike the butler who “forgot” because, beyond interpreting the dream, Joseph did not “add value.” I wonder if God deliberately ensured that Pharoah, the same person, had both good and bad dreams so that Joseph could pay attention and connect the dots in the puzzle.

In the final use of his gift recorded in the Bible in Genesis 41, we meet a Joseph who helps others—without his own gain in mind. We also see that he had grown in the use of this gift, to not just interpret “data”, but add insights — reminding me of a saying in the business intelligence space; “data without insight is meaningless.” Joseph was not elevated by Pharoah simply because he interpreted the dream (akin to cleaning up muddy data), but because he added value—he provided clear and actionable insight from the interpretation of the dreams in a way that added value to the dreamer. And guess what? All without an ulterior motive! He recommended someone else to implement the solution he drafted himself—almost as though he was content to return to prison when his assignment was done.

Just like Joseph, we all have gifts — all, none excluded. We all have something to offer—a skill, a trait, a talent—something that can be worked to add value. Proverbs 18:16 lets us know that a man’s gift, or rather, a person’s offering of his/her gift, makes way for him/her and brings him/her before great men and women.

The question is, Who You Epp? Perhaps I should clarify this question, who are you helping with your gift without an ulterior motive? Or are you the centre and focus of your talents and gifts? Even in Ephesians 4, when Jesus gave gifts to men, we see that it was not primarily for the gift receivers themselves, but for the use of those gifts for the edification of the church. In the use of your gifts, don’t be a dam or a lake, be a river, be a bridge, flow!

Let’s wrap this up. Until your gift serves others, it is not in its refining state. Without service, your gifts are likely to remain stagnant and not improve along the metrics that matter. The way to get the most out of the gift you have been given is to lose it in service of others—not yourself. Finally, in all your getting, get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7); an application of your gifts beyond the interpretation of data/facts, but in a way that adds value and is transformative, in a manner that is profitable to direct and change the lives of those you serve.

Have a Great Week!

Pastor Itoro Nehemiah

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